In the wake of massive protests following the murder of 19-year-old Ankita Bhandari, allegedly by the son of a former Minister, the Uttarakhand BJP expelled the father and the elder brother of the accused from the party on Saturday.
The Uttarakhand police on Friday arrested Pulkit Arya, son of Vinod Arya — who was a Minister of State under the previous BJP government — for allegedly murdering the woman who was working at his resort.
Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami ordered demolition of the resort owned by the accused, who was allegedly forcing the girl into prostitution.
Pulkit Arya’s elder brother was removed from the post of nominated vice-chairman of the State’s OBC Commission.
Ms. Bhandari went missing while on duty on September 18, said the police. Her body was recovered from the Chilla canal in Rishikesh on Saturday. Resort manager Saurabh Bhaskar and assistant manager Ankit Gupta were also arrested.
Alleging delayed action by the Patwari police, the mob attacked the accused while they were being taken to jail. The angry locals also set a portion of the resort on fire which was later controlled by the fire brigade. The locals, who protested outside AIIMS Rishikesh, when the post-mortem was under way, also set fire to an ayurvedic medicine factory owned by Arya’s family.
“Locals also protested against BJP MLA Renu Bisht and vandalised her car. Bisht had gone to the protest site near AIIMS Rishikesh where she faced the brunt of people’s fury,” said an eyewitness.
After the massive protests and outrage, the government formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) and escalated the probe. “The body of Uttarakhand’s daughter Ankita was recovered this [Saturday] morning. My heart is deeply pained by this heart-breaking incident. In order to get the harshest punishment to the culprits, a SIT has been formed under the leadership of Deputy Inspector General of Police P. Renuka Devi,” said the Chief Minister.
On the directive issued to demolish the resort owned by the main accused, the Chief Minister said it was built on government and forest land. “The demolition of the resort is going on. A few rooms have not been demolished as they have forensic evidence of the crime,” he added.
The Opposition targeted the BJP over the incident. “Sir, will this bulldozer action solve the issue? By bulldozing the resort, you think our anger and the blot on our culture and society will fade away? Make rules so stringent so that people will be scared to commit crime,” former Chief Minister Harish Rawat said.
Ashok Kumar, Director General of Police, Uttarakhand, said the missing case of Bhandari was lodged with the Revenue Police on September 19.
Police probe found that days before her disappearance, the victim had sent a chilling note to her close friend sharing her ordeal. “They are forcing me to provide extra service to hotel guests,” wrote Ms. Bhandari, who was being paid ₹10,000 for the job she needed to support her family.